Alex Highsmith Explains Why He And T.J. Watt Don’t Switch Sides

In the NFL, sometimes EDGE rushers will switch sides to take advantage of matchups. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, that isn’t the case as Alex Highsmith told Ben Roethlisberger on his Footbahlin’ podcast that he’s more comfortable on the right side and T.J. Watt is more comfortable on the left side, so the two won’t switch.

“Right’s my more comfortable side,” Highsmith said via Channel Seven’sYouTube channel. “I think it’s just where we’re pretty much comfortable. He’s comfortable there, on the left. I played the right side in college, as well, throughout my last two years of college, and honestly I think it works out the best, because it’s a feeling we’re both comfortable with.”

Highsmith said he has some moves that work better on the right side and some that are better on the left, which he was able to showcase when he spent more time on the left when Watt missed seven games with a pectoral injury this year.

“I have certain moves that work on the right side and certain moves that work on the left side. There were a couple moves that I worked on the left side when T.J. was down this year, I played the left side too, going back and forth. Really for me, most of my moves, I’m able to bend more coming from the right side than left side, like my spin move, I did that a lot better on my right side than my left side.”

Highsmith’s swim move is his most lethal move, and it makes sense he’s going to stick on the right side if that’s where his best move works. Obviously, the comfortability aspect is huge, as guys are going to play better in the position where they’re more comfortable.

While Watt is more talented than Highsmith, the two of them are still high-level pass rushers, as evidenced by Highsmith’s 14.5 sacks this past season. There’s really no need for them to switch to take advantage of matchups, as both of them are more than capable of winning matchups against opposing offensive tackles.

With both of them healthy, the Steelers pass rush is significantly better. For as good as Highsmith is, he saw a lot more attention with Watt out and the Steelers pass rush as a whole suffered. But with post of them available, the Steelers front seven is among the best in football. Even if Watt didn’t put up the numbers he wanted when he returned, the defense was demonstrably better when he came back from injury than it was with him injured.

Highsmith will be due for an extension this offseason, and you can bet Omar Khan and the rest of the front office will do everything in their power to keep him in the black and gold. The Steelers identity is to get the passer and create pressure even when they aren’t blitzing a bunch of guys, and keeping two premium pass rushers in Watt and Highsmith will be essential to keeping that identity.

One key for Pittsburgh this off-season will be adding depth between Watt and Highsmith. The team acquired Malik Reed before this season and re-acquired Jamir Jones to fill out their outside linebacker depth this season, but neither was able to make much of an impact. I would expect the Steelers to look to add another EDGE rusher or two through free agency or the draft to help their depth problem.

Dave Bryan suggested Chase Winovich as an option earlier today, and there will also be a plethora of options available in the middle rounds of the draft. Whatever they do to address the position will be something to watch in the coming months.

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